For Kayla, a student at St. Marguerite Bourgeoys Catholic School in Kingston, participation on the EcoTeam underscores the school’s central mission of visible stewardship.
“It is important to get everyone involved,” she says, “and that’s what EcoSchools does.”
With a student body of 450, an impressive one in ten students from kindergarten to grade eight are members of the St. Marguerite Bourgeoys (SMB) EcoTeam.
Custodial workers, administration and staff members also join students in various projects, making participation a school-wide enterprise. This year, St. Marguerite Bourgeoys achieved Platinum EcoSchools certification for the third consecutive year.
Numerous projects attest to the school’s commitment to excellence, such as recycling and composting programs, water conservation, lights out lunches, litterless lunches, National Sweater Day, energy audits, lighting assessments, environmental lessons, acquisition of new energy-efficient laptops, as well as vegetable garden box and plant-a-tree programs.
The sheer variety of initiatives is remarkable, and EcoTeam teacher Melinda Devlin hopes that if students are introduced to good environmental habits early on, they will carry these habits throughout their lives.
“If we can not only teach the students about good environmental habits and conservation at a young age” she says, “but get them excited about it and involved, then we are starting them on the right track. We are laying the foundation for green living.”
Melinda’s outlook reflects Ontario’s faith-based education goals, with curriculum and programs designed to produce graduates who are responsible citizens and strong contributors to the common good of Ontario’s society.
As part of this bigger picture EcoSchools mandate, St. Marguerite Bourgeoys has also been laying a strong foundation in energy conservation.
The idea for a solar wall — comprised of a solar air heating system that heats building ventilation air and improves indoor air quality — came about eight years ago when students expressed an interest in new technology.
“We started things going in 2008,” says Karen Cooney Smart, another EcoTeam lead teacher, “and eventually had the wall installed. Over the years the students have been able to check and track the data.” Specifically, students can track the total photovoltaic and thermal energy generated by day, week, month or year.
“Our students, staff and parents at St. Marguerite Bourgeoys have evolved in the commitment to stewardship over the last 10 years,” Cooney Smart says. “We still have our ups and downs, habits that are sometimes hard to change, awareness that continually needs to be cultivated, and actions that need to be consistent.”
“But throughout our journey,” she concludes, “students have been the driving force, and they inspire us adults and give us all hope for the future of our planet.”